An excerpt from Prospect magazine online claiming “Postmodernism is dead”
If there’s one word that confuses, upsets, angers, beleaguers, exhausts and contaminates us all, then it is postmodernism. And yet, properly understood, postmodernism is playful, intelligent, funny and fascinating. From Grace Jones to Lady Gaga, from Andy Warhol to Gilbert and George, from Paul Auster to David Foster Wallace, its influence has been everywhere and continues. It has been the dominant idea of our age. So what was it?full article here
Well, the best way to begin to understand postmodernism is with reference to what went before: modernism. Unlike, say, the Enlightenment or Romanticism, postmodernism (even as a word) summons up the movement it intends to overturn.
Thus, if modernists like Picasso and Cézanne focused on design, hierarchy, mastery, the one-off, then postmodernists, such as Andy Warhol and Willem de Kooning, were concerned with collage, chance, anarchy, repetition. If modernists such as Virginia Woolf relished depth and metaphysics, then postmodernists such as Martin Amis favoured surface and irony. As for composers, modernists like Béla Bartók were hieratic and formalist, and postmodernists, like John Adams, were playful and interested in deconstructing.
In other words, modernism preferred connoisseurship, tended to be European and dealt in universals. Postmodernism preferred commodity and America, and embraced as many circumstances as the world contained.
“Most people ignorantly suppose that artists are the decorators of our human existence, the esthetes to whom the cultivated may turn when the real business of the day is done. But actually what an artist is, is a person skilled in expressing human feeling…Far from being merely decorative, the artists awareness is one of the few guardians of the inherent sanity and equilibrium of the human spirit that we have.”
— Robert Motherwell